After graduation I had no plans for my future, I became pregnant, and after my child was born I realized that I did not have a college education, and I felt I could not get a sufficient enough job to handle all my new financial expenses. I knew that I needed an extended education but I did not know where to start, while my peers in high school were getting accepted into 2 and 4 year colleges I was out chasing after a boy, and in effect my grades suffered, which was too bad because I was really a smart kid. I could not see how any college would accept me with such a low G.P.A. feeling hopeless, and failing to research community colleges, I enrolled in a 9 month Health Specialist training program with the Salter School, which would become one of the biggest mistakes that I could have ever made.
After my daughter was born, I did not jump to go to work because I wanted to care for her, I spent all of my day caring for her I would watch a bit of television when she would nap. Just when I began to feel like a hopeless bum, a Salter School commercial popped up on the television screen. The commercial seemed very sincere and promising, ” go to school for less than a year, receive a certificate and earn good money” those were all the words a person like me needed to hear. I needed money quick to support my daughter and I wanted to be back in school to extend my education. Sure enough I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote the name and number down of the school and within the same week I was down in the enrolling office with my mother.
We sat in an office waiting for the lady to talk to me and give us a tour of the school. The lady seemed very personalble and down to earth, I told her I was looking to start school in September and she said why not earlier that they were still enrolling students for the August sessions, feeling cornered I decided to enroll early. The lady told me that the school was a great way to earn a great income to take care of my child, this is what I wanted to hear. She told me I was a brilliant girl and that I would do well with the school. There was much “rear end kissing,” and so young and naïve I fell for it. The lady also told me not to worry about money because I was of course not wealthy but just making it, and I also had a young daughter to care for, she said financial aid (mainly grants) would cover everything. Shortly after I was told my acceptance into the school was based on a skills test because the Salter School was a private school and did not have an open admission policy, I vaguely remember the content of the test but I do remember saying to myself, an elementary student could pass this test. This test was not challenging, it was as simple as writing your name, but I did not think much of it. My score was reviewed and what do you know I had a perfect score!
I was then given a tour of the school, which sat on three floors. The first stop was the eat in area, the area was very small with one microwave, a vending machine, one small refrigerator, and two long tables with mixed and matched chairs, the tables made it almost impossible to get around the small eat in area. We were then led to the second floor via a very small elevator which could only hold about 3-4 people. The second floor held a couple of classrooms, and a computer room. The classrooms were dingy and small and filled with clutter, the computer room had only a handful of computers maybe 10-12, and at least two of the computers were very outdated. We were showed where the restrooms were and there were only 2 unisex bathrooms, one on the second floor, and another on the third floor. The last floor was no different from the previous, the classrooms were dingy, small, and cluttered, the school did not look professional at all.
I knew the school did not look that great but I felt as though it was my only hope, I thought that I could never get into college and so I enrolled myself into this school under the health claims specialist program (medical coding and billing). My financial aid appointment was scheduled shortly after, and I went to this appointment by myself, which I now advise no young person to do) I had filled out a paper FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) but my information was converted into the computer by the lady who dealt with financial aid. The lady went over what financial aid was, and what I would qualify for etc. After “reviewing my file” she told me that I was eligible for some grants that would cover the entire expense of tuition and books for the school, she then asked me if I wanted to take out a loan, she had said that the loan was completely optional, and that I did not need it and that I could use the money for my personal expenses such as transportation (to buy a car.)
Not understanding the basics of loans, I naively said okay, all I thought was wow, I can get a car! She put loads of papers in front of me to read and sign. I read the papers to the best of my knowledge and signed and dated the bottom of each paper. That was the end of my financial aid appointment but the beginning of regret.
For the first month every thing went smoothly I was enrolled in two, 2 and half hour classes; Business English and Medical Terminology. Things began to go downhill in my second month, classes became overcrowded, and the computer lab sufficed for an actual classroom, teachers began to teach classes that they were not qualified for, other teachers began to play favorites, others began to have cram sessions, where they would cram as much work in as possible for fear of not reaching deadlines. The classes were being taught too fast, and not enough time was spent on detail and content, many teachers weren’t available due to their second jobs. Many classes were spent just reading chapter after chapter with no explanation. Many students began to complain how they were given tests that they were ill-prepared for because they were never correctly taught, and many students began to drop out, I was one of them.
I only lasted for about 3 months in that school, 3 months that I will regret for the entirety of my life. Shortly after leaving that school I became wise and enrolled in a community college but I had a problem with financial aid, I could not receive financial aid for this school because part of my financial aid was still being held by the Salter School, the school I dropped out of, and to my understanding that school would have kept the money had I not spoken with a financial aid advisor at my new school ,a community college, but things were taken care of and I gracefully enrolled.
This school was of much higher standards when compared to the Salter School. The school was luxury, the computer lab had about 30 Dell and Apple computers not counting the ones in some of the classrooms, the cafeteria was huge, it had cooks, and menus, salad bars, vending machines, microwaves etc. The classrooms ranged from small to huge and they were not shabby at all. The teachers were very professional, and nice, and almost always available. The teachers taught like experienced pros. The school was incredible, I could not even believe it myself that I enrolled myself in a school so beautiful.
Shortly after enrolling in the new school, I received a bill from Direct loans saying that I had a loan of about $3,000 to pay back. I could not believe this. To my understanding the lady that helped me with financial aid told me that the grants would cover all of the expenses for that school and that the loan would come to me for my personal expenses, well that loan never came to me, it was disbursed to the school, and I guess they used 3,000 plus the grants in just 3 months. Actually about a few hundred dollars was refunded but that was about it. When I saw this bill I cried, this school was not even worth $3,000, I would not even pay that out of my pocket to go to this school even if I had it. Questions filled my head, How could I owe 3,000? Didn’t grants cover everything? How is it that I enrolled myself in a community college and I do not have to pay for anything? I soon found out that other students were having this problem.
I reviewed the loan that I signed and sure enough the fine print read I promise to pay back the loan even if I did not complete my course of study, or if I was unsatisfied with the course. I checked that box off, and I signed my name, I knew then that there was no way out. Regardless, I called the school and the lady denied saying that I could use the loan for personal expenses, I asked her why is it that I go to college and I do not have to pay a dime but I owe $3,000 for a school I attended for 3 months, (and plus my income was considerably low, not to mention I had a dependant child,) and she responded “We’re a private school we charge for each class, we charge for class time, and community college is different they just charge for the books and “Each school has different financial aid packages.” I asked didn’t the grants I qualified for cover the expenses? She responded “No.” I asked how I can owe 3,000 if I just went for 3 months?” she responded. “The tuition is expensive because it is pprivate and the grants did not cover it all and that is why we used the loan.” Whatever I asked she denied it. A financial aid advisor at a financial aid center told me that it was not good idea to have that lady fill out my FAFSA on the computer because she could have put in anything that she wanted to that could have affected my financial aid grants.
Each day interest kills me my loan payments have been deferred because I am in school but there is no halt on interest and in effect my loan has now topped the $3,000 scale, it’s unfortunate I am a poor single parent and I do not know if I ever will be able to pay this off, I feel as though I was scammed, but I guess the only person to blame is me. I should have never been so hasty but I was too naïve and eager to realize what I was doing.
To all of you who rush to these certificate programs I urge you to do your research first, if you come in naïve they will take advantage of you. These schools sell like an ad, the people that handle enrolling sound just like salesman, they are trying to sell a program to you, and they do this in a way that makes you feel pressured. Don’t let them break you.
Always, always think twice about taking out a loan, if you are of low income just think it will take you years, and years to pay back this loan, and if you fail to pay these loans back your credit will be ruined.
When going into a financial aid office go with someone who is wise on financial aid, go with someone who can help you make clear decisions.
Don’t go to a certificate program like this if you feel that your grades are too low to get into college because believe it or not they market these programs to people who have been out of school for a while, people with low academics and to single moms, or parents with children. Anyone can get accepted into a community college because community colleges have an open admission policy which means that anyone who has receive a degree or G.E.D. will be accepted into the school regardless of grades. From there you can most likely transfer to a 4 year college, just keep your grades up and you may even find your way into a prestigious 4 year college.
Many of these certificate schools make you take an entry test but these tests are relatively easy to pass. Most of these schools do not live up to the standards of a private school; in many cases a community college is superior when in comparison to certain private certificate schools.
Community colleges are great, you can earn a certificate, a diploma, or an Associate’s degree, and you don’t have to stop with just an associate degree, afterwards transfer yourself into a four year college to earn your Bachelor’s degree.
Many Colleges have childcare available on campus.
You can participate in many activities and events in college.
You can travel abroad in college.
If you want the college experience don’t enroll into certificate programs like these on television, they have certificate programs in colleges as well. In college you will have access to better resources, and teachers. In college you have many choices on the study of your choice.
Think about your career, do you want a job or a career? These certificate programs are more job oriented than career oriented, if you want a great career attend a community college or any other college.
Remember if you sign a loan you are responsible of paying it back no matter if you drop out or are displeased with the program.
If you drop out and cancel your loan before a certain date you many not have to pay anything back.
Think twice before responding too hastily to these programs, think, think, think.